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Facebook’s new friends

Facebook’s new friends

Catching up with old friends, making new ones, biting each others’ vampires and feeding dolphins and bunnies are what most people do on the social networking site. But Facebook seems to be playing a new role in people’s lives.

December 18, 2008 8:30 by

These days, it seems Facebook has become the best way to get your voice heard; from demanding action in Mumbai after the attack, to lending support to the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush, every issue is covered.

In good old Dubai too, where Etisalat tried banning the social networking site unsuccessfully, the power of Facebook is already being tapped.

Earlier this month, Emirates and Skywards announced that they would no longer allow Skywards Gold and Silver members traveling in economy class to use the Business Class lounge in the new Dubai Airport Terminal 3. They cited overcrowding as the reason, but added that members could continue to use the Emirates Business Class lounge in Terminal 1. That pissed off quite a few, prompting many to vent their frustrations online.

A group titled “Protest Against Emirates & Skywards – No More Lounge access at T3” was quickly formed on Facebook (it has 71 members), and angry passengers also began to criticize the move on forums like Flyer Talk.

“This is a GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT for the loyalty we have shown in the past. Emirates is now demonstrating more aggressive measures in cutting costs, similar to what other lower class airlines have been doing for the last 2 years. The Business Lounge was a great asset, where frequent travelers such as myself would rather pay up to Dhs. 1000 more for an Emirates ticket than other airlines to avail of the convenience provided by access to the lounge before flights.

Emirates said that Skywards members can still make use of the Skywards Lounge located in Terminal 1. Does it even make sense for someone flying Emirates from the dedicated T3 to check-in there then walk for 30 minutes to the old, crowded, and terribly catered lounge at T1, then walk back again catch the flight? This barely seems like a practical alternative,” read the petition on Facebook.

Though Skywards tried to placate its disappointed travelers, they were obviously not very successful; ten days after their initial announcement, Emirates and Skywards sent a mail to all the members, saying that lounge access at Emirates Terminal 3 was reinstated for gold members.

But this is not the first time; earlier this year, on hearing news that the Hard Rock Café in Dubai was going to closed down, Facebook members started a community called ‘Save the Hard Rock Cafe – Dubai’ which gathered more than 10,500 members. After much rallying by the group and a bit of media spotlight, the café was saved.

Soon afterwards, its alcohol license was revoked, and not surprisingly, another group was quickly formed – ‘Grant the Hard Rock Cafe – Dubai a license’. With 1,172 members, this group has not yet managed to get the booze flowing in HRC.

While public protests are not allowed in Dubai, and doing so will probably cost people their jobs (if not more), this has become a new way for the masses to get their point heard. And it certainly seems that the authorities are listening.

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